In every aspect—the setting, the vibe, the amenities, the on-site programs—Frog Meadow fulfills its “oasis” billing. For gay and bi men seeking to shed stress, responsibilities, and inhibitions for a spell, this is the place.
Three rooms in the main house include the Frog Meadow Suite, with two-man Jacuzzi, along with Brook Cottage, constructed from aromatic cedar wood, and the Deluxe Barn Suite, sleeping four. Guests can roam naked (except for the driveway) around the rambling 63-acre property, which includes gardens, trails, and springfed swimming pool. Mind, body, and soul engagements include customized treatments in the dedicated massage studio, and enrichment workshops and retreats in areas such as healing, sexuality, yoga, and meditation.
The community-focused couple, who just celebrated the 25th anniversary of their Vermont Civil Union in 2001 (they married in Massachusetts in 2003), also bring guests and locals together by hosting social gatherings, potluck dinners, outdoor activities, and fundraisers for local non-profits such as the AIDS Project of Southern Vermont.
Yet more brotherly bonds beckon at Rock River, about four miles from the property. Renowned for its deep, clear swimming holes, the river is a popular spot for nude bathing, or the “Indian Love Call,” a Vermont tradition. Past the family area, the crowd gets increasingly naked and mixed, until about 30 minutes in from the trailhead, where the “official” gay area awaits. According to Heller, the scene is very “social and relaxed,” with “very cruisy woods” for libidinous encounters.
Heller, who has worked and lived around the globe, says he feels most grounded in Vermont.
“With a strong “live and let live” ethos, Vermont is a socially progressive state that has long attracted people outside of the perceived ‘norm,’ including artists, writers, hippies, and gays,” he said. “Since moving here, Southeastern Vermont, with relative proximity to New York and Boston, affordable real estate, and room to breathe, has attracted a steady influx of creative and entrepreneurial people,” he continued. “The result is a developing creative economy, along with a continually growing LGBT community. It’s not unusual for us to host several guests in a given week who are looking at real estate.”
Exemplifying the trend is nearby Brattleboro, which Heller described as “a very liberal and assimilated town where [two men or two women] can walk hand-in-hand and display affection without undue negative repercussions.” Many of the historic, artsy river city’s visitor draws are listed in “Discover Gay Vermont,” a tourism microsite created by the couple on their webpage.
Formerly a chef (ski patroller and EMT too), King saw me off the next morning with a delicious breakfast of eggs, yogurt, and toast spread with honey from the couple’s three beehives. Like Docto and Trulson before them, the couple waved me off, with the invitation to return. My head swimming with Vermont memories, new and old, that’s an easy promise to keep.
Frog Meadow Farm 34 Upper Spring Hill Road, Newfane, Tel: 802-365-7242. From workshops to apple-picking to naked yoga, hosts Scott Heller and Dave King provide the consummate pleasure escape for gay and bi-men at their “country B&B and massage oasis.” Plus, nude swimming and upstream cruising at nearby Rock River. Rooms from $150 (winter) and $175 (summer). www.frogmeadow.com
Moose Meadow Lodge, 607 Crossett Hill, Waterbury, Tel: 802-244-5378. When not promoting LGBT Vermont, serving on community boards, or officiating weddings, Willie Docto and Greg Trulson are winning guests’ hearts at their 86-acre luxury log cabin B&B escape, which includes overnights in the most magical Treehouse. Rooms from $199. www.moosemeadowlodge.net
Red Clover Inn & Restaurant, 7 Woodward Road, Mendon, Tel: 802-775-2290. Named for the state flower and housed in a renovated 1849 farmhouse by Pico and Killington Mountains, this welcoming 13-room VGTA member, with a gay-savvy staff, is an ideal spot for gay weddings. Rooms from $150, seasonally adjusted. www.redcloverinn.com
The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa, 70 Essex Way, Essex. Tel: 802-764-1469. Featuring 120 stylish guest rooms and suites, plus full-service spa, popular Junction and Tavern restaurants, Cook Academy culinary programs, hot air ballooning, guided tours, and more, The Essex, a longtime VGTA member, also supports LGBT functions including Vermont CARES’ annual auction. Rooms from $159. www.essexresortspa.com
The Inn at Shelburne Farms, 1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne. Tel: 802-985-8498. From May to October, vacation like a Vanderbilt at the 19th century home of Dr. William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb. With 24 rooms, four guest cottages, and farm-to-table dining, this lakeside National Historic Landmark sits within historic year-round working Shelburne Farms, with 1,400 acres of forest and field to explore. Rooms from $175. www.shelburnefarms.org/staydine
El Gato Cantina, 169 Church Sreet, Burlington. Tel: 802-540-3095. Owner Tree Bertram, originally from Central California, delivers authentic Mexican fare at her lively restaurant on lower Church Street. With a second location in nearby Essex Junction, you’ll purr especially over the menu of infused tequilas, margaritas, and cocktails. With names like Passion in the Desert, Swinging Cowgirl and Singing Cowboy, you get the idea. www.elgatocantina.com
Hen of the Wood, 92 Stowe Street, Waterbury. Tel: 802-244-7300. Talk about local flavor. James Beard nominated Chef Eric Warnstedt and coowner William McNeil source from 50-plus Vermont food producers and purveyors at their winning grist mill restaurant. The menu changes daily; reserve well ahead; and there’s an outpost in Burlington, plus Doc Ponds Eat & Drink in Stowe. www.henofthewood.com
Leunig’s Bistro & Lounge, 115 Church Street, Burlington. Tel: 802-863-3759. Named for an Australian cartoonist, this former 1980 coffee shop from co-owners Bob Conlon and Executive Chef Donnell Collins serves “the panache of Paris and the value of Vermont” in bites like pulled duck sliders and white truffle beef tartare, plus generous charitable and community support, LGBTQ initiatives included. www.leunigsbistro.com
The Downtown Grocery, 41 South Depot Street, Ludlow, Tel: 802-228-7566. In 2010, following stints including the Relais & Châteaux Pitcher Inn in Warren, Vermont and Tennessee’s celebrated Blackberry Farm, Chef Rogan Lechthaler returned home to southeastern Vermont with Mississippi-raised wife Abby and opened this “casual fine-dining” spot. Whether off the menu or daily blackboard, his hand-crafted pastas, meats and other creations are Vermont taste sensations. www.thedowntowngrocery.com
Burly Bear Promotions, Created by party producers Chris Vacarro and David Grenier, this Burlington-based philanthropic venture creates events solely to support Pride Vermont and other organizations. With the Blue Room at popular downtown club Red Square (www.redsquarevt.com) as their main base, the dynamic duo’s happenings range from tea dances to leather and fetish nights, such as Mardi Grrrr, Sirloin (Puppy Edition), and Marvel, Hot Dudes in Tights! For the Burly Bear calendar, visit www.pridecentervt.org
Farm to Ballet, With its third season running through July and August 2017, this imaginative dance project from Charles “Chatch” Pregger, director of ballet at the Green Mountain Performing Arts in Waterbury, uniquely links farming with music and dance. Staged at Vermont farms and agricultural sites such as the renowned Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, the performances uniquely nourish the senses. www.farmtoballet.org
Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, 153 Main Street, Burlington, Tel: 802-863-5966. Opened in 1930, this original vaudeville and movie palace followed the classic path of glory, decline, and renaissance, the latter in phases from 1981 on. Today, the Flynn is a regional draw for top-class performances at the 1,411-seat MainStage, reviving the original Art Deco theater, and smaller FlynnSpace, plus visual arts gallery. www.flynncenter.org
Higher Ground, 1214 Williston Road, South Burlington. Tel: 802-652-0777. This popular live music venue hosts queer dance parties on the first Friday of each month and most famously, the hotticket Winter is a Drag Ball in February. According to independent Vermont publication Seven Days, “trying to capture in words the fabulous and flamboyant history of Burlington’s Drag Ball is like trying to describe an orgasm on the slip of paper inside a fortune cookie: There’s just too much fun to cram into one tight space.” www.highergroundmusic.com
Shelburne Museum, 6000 Shelburne Road, Shelburne, Tel: 802-985-3346. Housed in 39 buildings in a village-like setting, including many historic structures relocated from throughout New England and New York, founder Electra Havemeyer Webb’s 150,000-plus piece “collection of collections” offers whimsical discoveries at every turn. www.shelburnemuseum.org
Winter Rendezvous, Tel: 617-504-3131. Seeing up to 100 inches in annual snowfall, Vermont is the winter capital of the East, attracting some four million skiers each year to world-class resorts including all-season Stowe (www.stowe.com). Since 1984, the mountain has hosted this Gay Ski Week celebration, with DJ’d dancing, drag parade, hottubbing, and giant pool party all part of the fun. The next “five days of wintry bliss” are January 18-22, 2017. www.winterrendevous.com
Cold Hollow Cider Mill, 3600 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Waterbury Center, Tel: 800-327-7537. Founded in 1974 by descendants of Vermont’s first governor, this farm store with its vintage cider mill produces more than 9,600 cider donuts daily during the fall, plus cider, maple syrup, honey, baked goods. and other “Vermont to the core” bounty. www.coldhollow.com
The Vermont Country Store, 657 Main Street, Weston, Tel: 802-824-3184. “Purveyors of the Practical and Hard-To-Find” since 1946, this quintessential general store, still run by the founding Orton family, vends men’s and women’s clothing, kitchenware, food, beauty products, and more. The adjacent Bryant House features an 1827 dining room, 1885 barroom, and antique soda fountain. There’s another location in nearby Rockingham, and the Vermont Country Store “Kissing Bridge” in Bellows Falls. www.vermontcountrystore.com
Rock River. With dozens of swimming holes around the state, outdoor bathing, often in the nude, is a Vermont tradition. Popular for its deep, clean waters, Windham County’s Rock River in Southeastern Vermont has an “official” gay area for relaxing, no-attitude swimming, sunbathing, and socializing. Reachable via a 30-minute hike from the trailhead, four miles from Frog Meadow, the spot includes woods for cruising—just be aware of Vermont’s “lewd and lascivious” statute. www.rockriverpreservation.org
Pride Center of Vermont (PCVT), 255 South Champlain Sreet, Suite 12, Burlington, Tel: 802-860-7812. Founded in 1999, PCVT today is New England’s leading resource center for the LGBTQ community. Producer of Pride Vermont in Burlington each September and home of the Vermont Queer Archives, PCVT is also a great drop-in and online resource for gay visitors. The Center is now also assuming day-to-day control of the Vermont Gay Tourism Association (www.vermontgaytourism.com), another valuable resource for gay visitors. www.pridecentervt.org